The cave temples of Aurangabad cut between the 6th and the 8th century are nine kilometers from Aurangabad, near Bibi-ka-Maqbara.
Cave temples of Aurangabad make a worthy prelude to the far more celebrated Ellora and Ajanta. Some of the sculptural work here ranks with the best in India. The site, however, is reached after a hard climb and the group of excavations is separated by one and half kilometer (one mile) across the hillside. Because of this difficult approach the Aurangabad caves are often dropped from the itinerary of tourists. They are definitely worth a visit.
Like all other of their kind elsewhere in India-their total number is nearly 1200. These excavations were not based on any natural caves. The solid rock-faced was hewn and carved with primitive tools. The method employed was to make a plan and then start work from the top. Proceeding downward, the rock-cutters left solid work from the top. Proceeding downward, the rock-cutters left solid blocks for pillars. The carving with hammer and chisel went on along with the excavation with pickaxe. He façade and the verandah were first completed and then the hall, antechamber and the cells of the shrine. The procedure was the same thought.
The Buddhists were the first to make cave temples. The architecture had two structural forms, the chaitya-hall, a place of worship, and the vihara, monastery, a place of residence for monks. The chaitya-hall has a vaulted roof and its entrance is topped by the large window shaped as ahorse-shoe-inside, it has a central nave, side-aisles and a shrine or image-chamber. The vihara has a large hall for congregation and residential cells on three sides.
The cave temples are rock-hewn adaptations of these two forms. The thousands of wood and masonry construction in country yielded to decay, but the pattern lives on, reproduced in the time-defying material of rock. The excavation starts from the western end of the scrap.
Aurangabad Caves 1: is a vihara of the seventh century. It has a 23.16 meter (76ft.) verandah with eight pillars which have square bases and bracket capitals decorated with females. It will be seen later that the style has several points of contact with the figures in Cave 1 at Ajanta. On the west is a Buddha on a lotus seat supported by Nagas with their snake-hoods, Nagas, demi-gods who brought rain, were depicted in Buddhist art with a crown encircled by snake-heads. Outside the verandah, there is a row of sitting Buddha at the left end of the wall.
Aurangabad Caves 2: a more finished construction, is a chaitya-hall, but it has features borrowed from Brahmanism temples. An enormous seated Buddha occupies the shrine, his feet on a lotus, his hands folded in the attitude of preaching, and over his shoulders are celestial beings. This also belongs to the seventh century.
Aurangabad Caves 3: its pillared verandah has a hall supported on twelve richly carved columns which combine the styles of cave 1 and 26 at Ajanta. In the side wings are two compartments which have elaborate carvings. Cells at the angles served as monastic abodes while those at the back and sides were used as chapels. The two elaborately carved pillars in the antechamber are notable. In front of the shrihe which is occupied by a large seated Buddha are two group of votaries, male and female. The female figures were elaborated, head-dresses and necklaces and some have garlands in their hands. The total depth of cave is 24.99 meter (82 ft) and its width 19.20 meter (63 ft... This is one of the most completely developed and among the latest of the Buddhist cave temples in India. Aurangabad Caves 4: centuries older than the others. Is a chaitya-hall of the Hinayan order?
Aurangabad Caves 5: is not of much interest. Almost a kilometer and half (1 mile) away to the east in the same range of hills is the second group of excavations. This is reached by a rugged pathway.
Aurangabad Caves 6: the first in this series, combines the features of chaitya-hall and vihara, It has an ante-chamber and a shrine as also cells on three sides. The shrine contains a huge Buddha with attendants. One of the cells has a stone bed. The roof of the cells has a stone bed. The roof of the verandah shows some fragments of paintings.
Aurangabad Caves 7: is the most important of these excavations. It has a large inner cell with an image chamber. The two chapels at the end of the verandah and cells at the back of the cave are filled with exquisitely carved figures. There are six cells which served as living quarters for monks. The sculptures are characteristics of Mahayana mythology and are marked by a creative vigor which attained final fruitarian in the Brahman cal sculptures of Ellora.
On the verandah’s back wall, towards the left of the door, is a colossal figure of bodhisattva Padmapani. He is often seen with the Buddha in India’s rock shrines. For, among the life-forms, both human and animal through which the great teacher passed before he assumed the form in which he attained Enlightenment, Bodhisattva Padmapani (lotus-in-and) was closest to him in the process of evolution.
In this stone composition, there are eight scenes of Buddhist prayer which invokes the near-Buddha, thus: “From the devouring fire, merciful one, deliver us, from the sward of the enemy, merciful one, deliver us! From drowning in water, compassionate one, delivers us: From lion and elephant and reptile and demon, great compassionate one, delivers us!”
The eight fears are dramatized in four sculptures on either side of Padmapani. In each, two figures are praying to the Lord. The top sculpture on one side depicts fire as danger: next, it is the enemy’s sword; third. Chains: forth, shipwreck on the other side. The top sculpture represents the attack by a lion; second, snakes; third, maddened elephant; fourth, death as symbolized by a demons about to snatch a child from its mother’s lap. This scene recurs in another medium, painting at Ajanta. On the right side of the door is another huge Bodhisattva, Vajra-pani or Thunderbolt-in-hand. The female on his right is saraswati, the goddess of learning. Overhead, there are gandharvas, celestial musicians and aspires, nymphs of heaven, with offering in their hands. The profusion of goddesses is an indication that Buddhism was now shorn of its original austerity and reconciled to the older Brahman ritual. Sentimental had overlapped the stern, puritanical faith and filled the plastic arts, it inspired with an exuberance of spirit, the source of a new-won richness.